The next musical for me to watch from the Great movies – 100 Years of Film book for my viewing of The Jazz Singer is this Judy Garland classic, that has a lot of familiar songs that have now become standards.
The year is 1904, the World’s Fair is a year off, but it’s all that anyone in St. Louis can talk about. Well, almost all.
In the Smith household, filled with four daughters, including Esther (Garland) and Rose (Lucille Bremer), thoughts have turned to gentlemen callers, and the hopes of securing a husband. Rose has a beau, she hopes, that is currently in New York, and is expecting a long distance phone call with his proposition, while Esther has fallen for the boy next door who has just moved in, John (Tom Drake), who, much to her chagrin, hasn’t noticed her yet. Their two younger sisters, provide a lot of comedy and entertainment for the viewer and the family, especially little Tootie (Margaret O’Brien).
So Rose and Esther each try to win over their intended against a backdrop of sings, and finery, and some very funny moments. And things go well for them, until the reveal that their father, Alonzo (Leon Ames), has agreed to move the entire family to New York City. Not only does this throw any possible romantic connections into a tizzy, but it also means that they won`t be around for the World`s Fair. The entire family is devastated, but as Ester sings `Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,’ perhaps they’ll have a yuletide miracle, and there’ll be a happy ending…
Of course there will, this is a big time Hollywood musical!
Happily, there aren’t a lot of great big dance numbers, and most of the songs actually happen in the presence of people playing instruments. Yes, there are a couple that just happen, like the famous “Trolley Song,’ but for the most part it’s not spontaneous singing and dancing.
Garland is wonderful as Esther, though in this film I was more partial to Bremer’s Rose, and of course, little Tootie stole the show whenever opportunity presented itself.
Also on hand is the lovely June Lockhart!!!
The film is based loosely on the autobiographical novel by Sally Benson, and is one of those films that is suitable for the entire family, and most everyone will get something out of it, and enjoy it. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it, and actually knew more of the songs than I thought. I may have not known their names when I saw them listed in the opening credits, but I sure recognized them when people started singing them. It’s amazing how some songs have transcended the films that created them, and have become their own thing.
I’m definitely enjoying this foray into musicals, and there’s a couple more before we jump to the next category…
What’s your all time favorite screen musical?
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Great review, this has to be one of my favourite musicals.